As a nutritionist doing counseling on healthy eating and weight loss, clients often ask me about if they can include snacks in their diet and exactly what constitutes a healthy snack. Many people -- especially dieters trying to shed pounds -- are under the impression that snacking is not a good idea when trying to lose weight, but this isn't the case. The truth: it depends on what you are snacking on. Oftentimes, snacking is a good thing, as it could satiate you until your next meal and prevent you from overeating at dinner.
I tend to suggest including a reasonably portioned snack that contains a mixture of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. Doing so will sustain you and help you feel full for a longer period of time, without breaking the bank calorically. Below I suggest smart snacks that you may want to add to your eating plan, which may actually help your weight-loss efforts while contributing to your overall health.
1. Greek-yogurt parfait
Try blending a Greek low-fat yogurt with a mix of strawberries and bananas topped with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed. This is a great snack as it will provide you with a blend of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. The flaxseeds will provide you with heart-healthy, omega-3 fats, while the fruit will provide a boost of fiber that will keep you full for longer.
2. Veggies and hummus
Mix your favorite veggies with 2 to 3 tablespoons hummus. When it comes to veggies, try to get a blend of colors to maximize your nutrients. Some of my favorites are red peppers, carrots, cucumbers and broccoli. This is a smart snack as the veggies are low in calories and high in fiber and nutrients including antioxidants while the hummus contains a blend of healthy fat and protein.
3. An apple with nut butter
Slice an apple and add a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) of your favorite nut butter -- almond or peanut butter taste great. The fruit contains few calories and lots of fiber while the nut butter will provide you with a blend of protein and healthy fat, which will sustain you for a while. Because nut butters are high in fat, and therefore, calories, it is important to watch your portion.
4. Whole-grain crackers with part-skim cheese and sliced tomato
Choose your favorite whole-grain crackers and include a serving (up to 1 ounce) with your favorite part-skim cheese. Some examples include: 2 to 3 rye crisps topped with part-skim cheddar cheese and sliced tomato. You can also modify this to include a "fun" serving of whole grain such as 3 cups air-popped popcorn (yes, 3 cups!) or three-quarters of a cup whole-wheat pretzels and add a part-skim mozzarella stick and a few cherry tomatoes. The whole-grain serving is high in fiber and low in fat, while the cheese provides protein, calcium and some fat. The tomato gives you a healthy dose of vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene.
5. Your favorite vegetable bean soup
I am a soup lover and I must confess that I include soup in my diet even in the hot summer months. Soup makes for a great snack, as it is filling and you tend to eat it more slowly than you would a crunchy snack, especially if it is hot. Bean soups are a great choice, as they contain the perfect blend of protein and carbohydrates and plenty of fiber. Some healthy choices include a bowl (12 ounces) of lentil soup, split-pea soup or white-bean soup. Instead of waiting until you join your dinner companion at a restaurant and ordering soup as an appetizer, if you are hungry in the late afternoon, have the soup as a snack and it will sustain you for several hours.